U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released online from January 1, 1997 to January 20, 2001. Please see www.state.gov for current material from the Department of State. Or visit http://2001-2009.state.gov for information from that period. Archive sites are not updated, so external links may no longer function. Contact us with any questions about finding information. NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.
U.S. Department of State

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
MONDAY, JANUARY 25, 1999
Briefer: JAMES B. FOLEY

CROATIA AND MONTENEGRO
1US welcomes actions taken last week to open border crossings.
ZIMBABWE
1US deplores detention and torture of newspaper editor and reporter.
NORTH KOREA
1,3,4Four-party talks ended January 22.
3-4Subcommittees met for first time, and began their work.
1-2Bilateral negotiations on suspect underground construction occurred afterward.
2Appeals for food aid are considered separately.
3Defection issue came up briefly, but was not appropriate for forum.
IRAQ
5,6Absent a functioning UNSCOM, US prepared to use force.
5,6,7,8Enforcement of no-fly zones continues, in furtherance of UNSC resolutions.
5-6,9Iraqi challenges to coalition flights have recently increased.
7,8Arab League Ministerial clearly distinguished between Iraqi regime and people.
9Two Iraqi opposition groups support working cooperatively to create pluralistic, democratic Iraq..
TURKEY
6Ambassador Parris paid courtesy call on Prime Minister today.
CYPRUS
10Secretary Albright has agreed in principle to meet the Foreign Minister.
KOSOVO
11,12Current ACTORD is for air power; question of deployment of NATO ground forces is premature, hypothetical.
11,13,14Ambassadors Hill, Petrisch are urging their contacts to comply with Contact Group principles.
12Possible Contact Group meeting has not yet been decided upon.
12-13KVM security is all-important; FRY authorities have guaranteed KVM safety.
15KVM patrol found car containing five bodies this morning; identities of victims not yet known.
VENEZUELA
14,15-16US welcomed election of President-elect Chavez, looks forward to working with him. He will meet with several US officials during his one-day visit.
SOUTH AFRICA
15US hopes violence in Richmond can be dealt with no further bloodshed.
INDIA-PAKISTAN
16Deputy Secretary Talbott looks toward progress on a range of issues in February trip.
CAMBODIA
16-17US has called for bringing to justice senior Khmer Rouge leaders responsible for genocide.
JORDAN
17Successor of King Hussein is an internal matter, the responsibility of the king.
ISRAEL
17Sacking of Defense Minister Mordechai is an internal political matter.
PAPAL VISIT TO MEXICO
17Counter-narcotics and anti-corruption issues are important USG policies.




U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFF-CAMERA DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #11
MONDAY, JANUARY 25, 1999, 1:10 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. FOLEY: Welcome to the State Department. I have a couple of announcements which I'm going to post after the briefing. First, the United States welcomes actions taken last week by the governments of Croatia and Montenegro to open border crossings. Secondly - and I'll read this - the United States Government deplores the January 12 through 19 detention in Zimbabwe of Sunday Standard editor Mark Chavanduka by Zimbabwean military police and the subsequent torture of Mr. Chavanduka and reporter Ray Choto. We call on the government of Zimbabwe to promptly investigate the circumstances of their detention and torture and bring to justice those responsible.

Zimbabwe has institutions to safeguard the rule of law, including civilian control of the military and freedom of the press. Accordingly, we urge the government of Zimbabwe to ensure the safety of the Sunday Standard publisher, Clive Wilson, and that of his associates.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the talks with the North Koreans in Geneva?

MR. FOLEY: I do. You're referring to the bilateral talks concerning the suspect underground site, I imagine, as opposed to the Four Party Talks, which concluded last week.

After both delegations - US and North Koreans - took part in those Four Party Talks, which ended on January 22, discussions on Kumchang-ni again took place, first at the DPRK mission on Saturday, and then at the US mission yesterday. There was also a brief meeting this morning in Geneva. In keeping with our general practice, when we're in the middle of negotiations, which we still are on this issue, I can't comment more specifically.

What I can say, though -- because I think you'll note that the North Koreans spoke out about this meeting afterwards - is that since the beginning of these negotiations last year, we have consistently pursued our single objective, which is to preserve the viability of the Agreed Framework, by satisfying fully our concerns about Kumchang-ni, by gaining access to the site.

As we've said in the past, differences do remain between the two sides, but we are negotiating seriously. Both sides continue to approach the negotiations in a problem-solving manner. It's also noteworthy that both sides have agreed to continue negotiations as soon as practical arrangements can be made. I have nothing to announce specifically in that regard, but we expect those arrangements to be finalized through the New York channel.

QUESTION: Do you expect them to remain private?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I have nothing beyond what I just said. I understand that the other delegation spoke to that effect, used that "p-word" that you just asked me about. I will have to just stick to what I just said, which is that both sides are negotiating seriously. They're bringing a problem-solving approach to this; and I would deem that as positive, though. But in terms of progress, I said that differences remain; and our bottom line remains the same - that access to the site is necessary to allay our concerns. When that has been achieved, then I can come before you and speak to you about progress.

QUESTION: Did the issue of food aid come up?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of whether that question came up. I don't have a full read-out in that regard. However, we have made clear, over the past several years, that we treat the question of food aid on its own merits, and that we have developed a remarkable record of dealing with appeals from the World Food Program for food assistance to North Korea, when that organization has judged that such assistance is necessary. We have consistently responded favorably to such appeals.

But as regards our discussions with the North Koreans about the suspect site, we have always made clear that the issue of access to the site is not one over which we're prepared to pay any form of compensation.

QUESTION: Jim, isn't there an outstanding appeal by the World Food Program?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to check that for you. I'm not aware that there is an outstanding appeal, but I'd be glad to look into it for you. The fact of the matter is that the World Food Program does do regular assessments of the situation. The situation remains dire in North Korea, given the dysfunctional nature of the economic system. I think no one can argue that there have been deep and significant food shortages over the last years. The World Food Program has made, as I said, periodic assessments and made, on that basis, periodic appeals to which we've responded positively in the past. But the precise answer to your question, I'd like to look into.

QUESTION: Did you say that there would be follow-on meetings between the US and North Korea on this disputed site?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, I did.

QUESTION: Now, what do we know about that so far - any dates or venues in New York; is that correct?

MR. FOLEY: No, what I said is that they've agreed - both sides have agreed to meet again. The practical arrangements have to be made, and they'll be finalized through the New York channel. We'll let you know as soon as we have dates for the next round of those talks.

QUESTION: During the Four Party Talks, North Korea criticized the US and South Korea for defection issues --

MR. FOLEY: For what?

QUESTION: Defection. In these bilateral talks, did they raise this defection issue?

MR. FOLEY: I believe the issue did come up -- briefly -- and that the other parties to the talks indicated their belief that this was not a proper venue for raising such a topic.

QUESTION: Anything else you can say on the Four Party Talks while you're on that?

MR. FOLEY: If you have a question about them.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, did you make any - was there any positive movement in that set of talks?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we believe that the latest round of the Four Party Talks began to take modest, but in some sense significant, steps towards the ultimate goals of the talks. This is because the parties organized and held for the first time, subcommittee meetings to discuss, on the one hand, tension reduction on the Korean Peninsula, and secondly, the establishment of a new peace regime.

These two subcommittees met; they agreed on procedures to govern their work; they exchanged views related to their respective purposes. We believe that the fact that these sub-committees have begun their work is a good start in what, I would hasten to add, will be a lengthy and difficult process.

In terms of moving the ball forward on substance, I don't believe - well, certainly views were exchanged in those subcommittees. I don't believe that anyone expected that there would be substantive breakthroughs in that first meeting of those subcommittees. But I don't think we should underestimate the symbolic and practical importance or significance of the fact that, for the first time since the Korean War armistice, the parties have now begun to sit down at a table and engage in substantive talks designed to take concrete steps towards establishing a new peace regime in place of the armistice, and reducing tension on the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: Can you go a little bit further? I mean, was it just a matter of the sides sort of reading prepared papers, or was there an actual give-and-take?

MR. FOLEY: Each of the four parties was able not only to discuss issues of procedure, how they would work, -- because this was the first time the subcommittees did meet and did work. I would remind you parenthetically that it took quite some time to get to this point. Those of you who have been in this briefing room over the previous year - half of 1997 and 1998, since I've been here - know that it took a long time to establish an agenda, and establish the principle of the fact that the work would be broken into these two subcommittees, to deal with the separate issues of tension reduction and establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. So that took a long time. This is the first time they met; and they discussed procedure: how they would operate during those meetings and in the future. They also began a discussion of substantive views.

I can't give you, because I don't know the answer, Carol, as to whether there was dialogue across the table in response to the various presentations. I can look into that point. As you know, Carol, we don't speak in a great amount of detail about what happens in those private negotiations, for obvious reasons. I don't consider that a major point, as to whether they exchanged views across the table or not. I suspect they did. But I would be happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION: You're saying this is the first time since 1953 there have been substantive talks on confidence-building measures and so forth?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, in any kind of formal way. For example, the two issues that they're discussing -- of the establishment of a new peace regime and tension reduction -- is something that are issues that were discussed in principle over the last year or so, but merely in an effort to get them formally placed on an agenda as a prelude to substantive negotiations on those subjects. I don't believe there have actually been any negotiations on those subjects heretofore.

QUESTION: Did the US or South Korean side make specific proposals vis-à-vis confidence-building or vis-à-vis the establishment of a peace regime, as you call it?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we believe that the second issue - establishment of a peace regime - probably is something that will take the longest to achieve, given the fact that we've been in this state, governed by the armistice, for almost going on five decades now; whereas the issues of tension reduction are issues that have to do with the daily interaction of the parties and involve steps that could be practicable, and steps that could be conceivably reached and implemented in a shorter period of time. I don't mean to prejudge the outcome of such negotiations, or to express optimism, because that is not yet warranted. What we're saying is the very fact that the four sides are formally beginning to grapple with these issues is symbolically important, and is the necessary predicate for reaching progress on those issues.

I can't tell you how long it's going to take for there to be tension reduction agreements. That's something we'll have to leave to the negotiations themselves.

QUESTION: Today several occasions, several times US warplanes attacked several Iraqi targets. After the Operation Desert Fox, the United States announced that if Saddam Hussein and Baghdad government repeated this kind of action, you can ready to answer some kind of this issue of attack or response, but still you are waiting. What is the purpose of this wait?

MR. FOLEY: I didn't understand your --

QUESTION: Why are you waiting to respond to the government of Baghdad?

MR. FOLEY: Why are we waiting to respond to the government of Baghdad?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. FOLEY: Concerning what?

QUESTION: Because they didn't give the permission to UMFOR to - they are not doing their job. They are attacking to US airplane.

MR. FOLEY: I think you're talking about different issues. If you're talking about the disarmament regime in the form of UNSCOM, and its ability to go back into Iraq and do its job, we would certainly like to see an effective UNSCOM go back into Iraq and continue the process of verifying the current status of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, with a view towards eliminating them totally. That's not happening now. The United States undertook significant military action, along with Great Britain, in December, precisely because Saddam had thwarted the work of the weapons inspectors. We have stated that, in the absence of a functioning UNSCOM in Iraq, that we will remain prepared to use force again, if we see that Iraq is reconstituting its weapons of mass destruction, or threatening its neighbors.

Insofar as the incidents which occurred today is concerned, you're referring to the Coalition enforcement of the no-fly zones, which have been in existence for many years. As you know, both Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch are being conducted in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 678, 687 and 688, which authorize the United States and other coalition members to take necessary action to deter or prevent the Iraqi Government's repression of its civilian population, and to prevent any threats to Iraq's neighbors. The Security Council acted wisely in this regard, given the fact that Iraq has brutalized its own population in both the northern and southern parts of the country.

In terms of the current state of no-fly zone enforcement, for several weeks now, Iraq has been challenging both the Northern and Southern no-fly zones. It has moved additional surface-to-air missile sites into both zones, and has been trying to shoot down coalition aircraft. We have responded in self-defense to enable us to continue enforcing these no-fly zones.

At approximately 1:25 this morning US Eastern time, coalition aircraft flying in support of Operation Southern Watch attacked an Iraqi SA-3 surface-to-air missile site and associated integrated air defense systems. The incident occurred north of the city of Basra in the Southern no-fly zone. Two US Air Force F-15 Eagles and four FA-18 Hornets were conducting routine enforcement of the Southern no-fly zone when they responded to threats by anti-aircraft artillery fire, and by two Iraqi Mig-21s and two Iraqi Mig-23s flying south of the 33rd Parallel in Iraq: in other words, into the Southern no-fly zone.

We have seen reports - and most recently on television - from Baghdad of civilian casualties in Basra as a result of this action. We do not have independent confirmation of these reports. I believe the Pentagon is still assessing the information available to it. The Pentagon may be able to convey more information on this later today, and I would expect a more complete assessment by tomorrow. I'd have to refer you to the Pentagon for those kinds of operational details.

What I can say is that civilians are most definitely not targeted in these operations. Our forces take every precaution possible to protect civilian populations. If, in fact, a missile has gone astray and civilians have been injured or killed, that is something that the United States would deeply regret. But as I said, we, number one, do not have confirmation of what may have occurred there today; and number two, we hold Saddam Hussein responsible for his violations of the no-fly zone, which seem to be part of an increasing pattern over the last several weeks.

QUESTION: Also, the Prime Minister of Turkey accepted Ambassador Parris and they discussed lengthy about this subject. We know that Prime Minister Ecevit is against the use of Incirlik base. Do you have any read-out on this subject?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I understand that Ambassador Parris paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister today, in view of his assumption of his new responsibilities. They reviewed the full range of issues on the US-Turkish bilateral agenda.

Ambassador Parris told Prime Minister Ecevit that the US considered our cooperation with Turkey on Iraq since the Gulf War to be a real bright spot in our very important bilateral relationship. Both he and the Prime Minister agreed that the US and Turkey should continue our close cooperation and consultations on Iraq. Again, it was a cordial meeting - a useful opportunity to exchange views on a range of issues on the bilateral agenda. I have no specific information confirming what you just said. I don't believe it's true.

QUESTION: Could you explain why the United States thinks this is a good, sort of, tactic to, sort of, wait until Saddam shoots off another - targets US planes and then to go after him? Why you're adopting a defensive position, rather than another sort of offensive operation, like you did in December?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I wouldn't want to prejudge or rule out or rule in any kind of response on our part. Our forces will do what they need to do to protect themselves. In terms of our willingness to use force for larger purposes related to Iraq's reconstitution of weapons of mass destruction or threats to its neighbors, we demonstrated in December that we are not only able but we have the will to undertake such action, and we will do so again if that proves necessary.

The no-fly zones were imposed under Security Council resolutions to protect the people of Iraq. We have talked to you about credible information, over the last month or two, about a continued brutalization of the people of Southern Iraq by the Iraqi regime. Iraq's track record of brutalization of the people - especially the Kurds of Northern Iraq - is well documented, to include the use of chemical weapons on those people. The Baghdad Government's repression and misgovernance of all Iraqis in all parts of Iraq is certainly not a secret to anyone.

So these no-fly zones serve a humanitarian purpose in protecting the people of Iraq most targeted by Saddam Hussein. We will continue to enforce the no-fly zones, and we will continue to do what is necessary to protect our pilots who may be attacked. I think that it's clear that, since the conclusion of Operation Desert Fox, which was marked by the noted absence of the Iraqi military during that four-day engagement, that the Iraqis have undertaken an aggressive policy of violating the no-fly zones in both the south and the north. They are now using their entire air defense systems against coalition aircraft.

Prior to this past month, violations of the no-fly zone were isolated and pinpoint in nature. What we're beginning to see now - and I think it relates to your question - is what appears to be a highly orchestrated, across-the-board series of challenges to, and attacks on no-fly zone enforcement. We are certainly not going to be intimidated by Iraqi actions in this regard.

But I think it's also important not to be drawn into the political game that Saddam Hussein is obviously playing, in undertaking these challenges to the no-fly zone. Again, as we've seen on the question of food and medicine -- of the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people -- Saddam Hussein has tried to exploit, and even exacerbate, the suffering the Iraqi people, in order to build support for the lifting of sanctions. We have seen how he has thwarted the efforts of the international community, led by the United States, to increase the availability of food and medicine to the Iraqi people. I think in this respect, as well, his challenges to the no-fly zone are intended to serve the obvious political aim of trying to build international support for the elimination of sanctions.

I know you have another question, but if I can conclude in this vein, I think that the international community is seeing through his game. We saw the Arab League meet yesterday in Cairo. It's very obvious that all the members of the Arab League -- all the nations of the Arab world -- feel a tremendous amount of understandable sympathy for the people of Iraq, for what they have gone through under Saddam Hussein's regime. But what is equally clear is that the members of the Arab League make a distinction between the people of Iraq, who are innocent victims of Saddam's policies, and the Iraqi regime which is responsible for the plight of Iraq's people.

We share the view of the members of the Arab League that Saddam Hussein must be held to his commitments to disarm, must respect his obligations, and that the humanitarian situation involving the Iraqi people is something which must be addressed by the international community. That's why we have been in the lead on this issue over the last years, and that's why earlier this month the United States proposed eliminating the ceiling on Iraqi oil exports, provided that all revenues are controlled by the UN, and go towards exclusively the purchase of food and medicine for the people of Iraq.

QUESTION: Senator McCain has said that the United States should go more aggressively after command and control centers. Are you suggesting that if -- that the United States feels that if it were more aggressive towards Saddam right now, instead of, sort of, allowing these sort of provocations, which seem to be occurring with great regularity, to be taken care of by some similar four-day intensive bombing campaign, that that would play into Saddam's hands and his efforts to stoke sympathy for -- international sympathy for his people?

MR. FOLEY: Well, his aim is not simply to stoke international sympathy for his people, but to exploit that sympathy; to escape from his obligations to disarm, and to escape from UN sanctions without disarming. So I think that's an important clarification.

As I said a few minutes ago, I don't want to prejudge, rule in, rule out anything that the United States may or may not do in regard to the provocations we're facing, and the challenges we're facing to the no-fly zone. I think we demonstrated in December that we're capable of mounting a serious and sustained attack on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction facilities, and on his military assets and infrastructure. That's a capability that we retain, and that we may use again in the future under circumstances which I described.

I would note also, during four days of sustained bombing, that we did not see footage on Iraqi television of collateral damage and of civilian casualties. So we would certainly regret, as I said, if any occurred in this latest incident. But this is obviously something, again, which is part of Saddam's many-year record of exploiting humanitarian concerns for his own political purposes.

QUESTION: Jim, do you think that Saddam's tactic here is to create incidents in the no-fly zones, with US air power, that will draw sympathy to his cause from the other Arab countries? Is that his strategy in this, do you think?

MR. FOLEY: I think I suggested something along those lines in my extended remarks. But I don't see that as succeeding. I think the Arab League itself demonstrated that it would not be fooled by such a strategy. I think the peoples of the Arab world, while they are sympathetic with the people of Iraq, recognize that the person responsible for their plight and their suffering is Saddam Hussein.

I think if you compare the situation to the time of the Gulf War, I think that there has been a great, growing, and great realization throughout the region, that Saddam is the one who has put his country through eight, nine years of isolation, of sanctions and periodic military action, because he refuses to give up those weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: While you're awaiting more information on whether or not civilians were hit, can you tell us whether the area north of Basra, where the missiles landed is, in fact, an area populated by civilians?

MR. FOLEY: I have no operational details for you, Mark. Again, I'd have to refer you to the Pentagon on that.

QUESTION: One other that may fall into that category - let me ask you anyway - has it been the Iraqi practice to put anti-aircraft missile sites in populated areas?

MR. FOLEY: I would love to try to answer that question, but I think it's prudent to let the Pentagon speak to that, because I don't have the answer you're looking for.

QUESTION: Just one more. Is there - do you have any information that the strikes today were connected to Iraq's brutalizing of the people of Southern Iraq, or where they in response to violations of the no-fly zone?

MR. FOLEY: That's a good question. I mean, certainly there have been press reports, which we have not corroborated, that there was movement of the Iraqi military into Southern Iraq in the last week. As I said, we were not able to confirm that. But the pattern, the record, the history of Baghdad's repression of the people of Southern Iraq, is well-documented and has continued into recent months. So you can't rule out that as a possible explanation for what's going on. But I think it's also undeniable that Baghdad has a larger political objective here, which is to try to build international sympathy and support for the idea of having the sanctions lifted.

I think that this pattern of challenge -- of increasing, systematic challenge to the no-fly zone that we're seeing over the last few weeks -- certainly has a lot to do with that political strategy.

QUESTION: You designated seven Iraqi opposition groups which got US money for toppling the Saddam regime. But two of them -- which one is Barzani's group and the other one is, I believe, the Shiite group - they said that they are against this money; especially Barzani's group. They declared that they don't want to topple Saddam Hussein's regime. Do you have any answer on this?

MR. FOLEY: Well, none of the seven groups that the President designated, including the KDP - and SCIRI that you referenced - approached the United States Government to ask for either designation or aid. We understand, though, that both of those groups want to work cooperatively with other opposition groups to establish a united, pluralistic and democratic Iraq government, after the current regime ends.

They support elections and human and political rights for all Iraqis, and we support these political goals, and will seek to support them in the most appropriate way.

QUESTION: Jim, point of information: Just before this briefing began, I learned from the Pentagon sources that General Zinni will be giving a briefing at 5:00 p.m. today at the Pentagon.

MR. FOLEY: Is that a question or a piece of information?

QUESTION: No, that is a piece of information I would suggest everybody check out.

QUESTION: It was reported that the Excellencies, Mr. Holbrooke and Tom Miller, are planning to preside at a joint Greek-Turkish business meeting in Athens, in an effort to find a resolution to the Greek-Turkish differences over the Aegean and Cyprus. Do you know when this meeting is going to take place?

MR. FOLEY: Could you again describe what kind of meeting it is?

QUESTION: It was a Greek-Turkish businessman meeting.

MR. FOLEY: In order to --

QUESTION: Find a solution to the Aegean and Cyprus problems.

MR. FOLEY: The reason I asked you to repeat the question is because it is true that Ambassador Holbrooke and Ambassador Miller have worked with the business community on Cyprus, in order to promote greater trade and prosperity and mutual understanding, as sort of a necessary predicate to achieving the larger issues of a political solution to the crisis in Cyprus. The two are not, though, the same - a business meeting is not a negotiation. Though I don't have news about that particular proposed meeting, I can assure you, though, that the two are different in nature.

QUESTION: Do you know when it is going to take place within Athens?

MR. FOLEY: No, I don't.

QUESTION: Also it was said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is going to see the Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kassoulides on February 17. Do you know the purpose of this meeting?

MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, it's true that Secretary Albright has agreed in principle to meet with Foreign Minister Kassoulides; but we're not yet in a position to confirm the exact timing of the meeting. She looks forward to consulting with her Cypriot counterpart on how to move the diplomatic process forward on Cyprus toward the goal of a balanced and lasting political settlement. Such a settlement should be based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation that meets the legitimate interests of all sides.

QUESTION: They are going to discuss, however, many issues of demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus after the recent decision of Nicosia not to deploy the S-300 missiles. Do you have anything on that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, of course, we don't routinely go into great detail about the prospective subject of a prospective, and not yet fully confirmed meeting, in any event. However, inasmuch as we would do any such thing, we would be more likely to say more as the meeting got closer, and it remains several weeks away.

QUESTION: On Kosovo, is the United States giving any consideration to, sort of, softening its opposition, putting troops in Kosovo? Would you need to do that in order to get some sort of a peace settlement?

MR. FOLEY: Well, in terms of US military forces, right now the only sort of operative issue is the NATO ACT-ORD, and the potential for NATO allied air intervention over Kosovo with, obviously, US participation.

What we have said since last October is that, in the event that there were a political settlement, to which both the Belgrade authorities and the Kosovar Albanians had agreed to, that we would - and if in that context it were deemed necessary by the international community to deploy some kind of international force, to help implement an agreed peace settlement - that we would examine whether the United States - what role, if any, the United States might play in such a scenario. The Administration would examine that option, would consult with allies, and consult with Congress.

But I really - that is premature at this stage. What we are talking about, what we are facing, rather, now, is far from that prospect. We are facing still an across-the-board failure on the part of the Serb authorities, to comply with the terms of the October agreement; to cooperate with the ICTY; to cooperate adequately with the Kosovo Verification Mission; to allow an investigation of the Racak massacre - a whole series of unacceptable steps and stands taken by the Serb authorities, to which the international community is right now deciding its response.

QUESTION: Having said that, though, the response of the international community last week was not to invoke the ACT-ORD, but to, in fact, say, let's send Chris Hill and others back to make another intensive effort to try to get diplomacy to work. So while what you say is true, the operative fact is that you're still looking at diplomacy in the short-term.

MR. FOLEY: What do you mean, we're still looking at diplomacy?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you're not moving to the ACT-ORD right now.

MR. FOLEY:I see.

QUESTION: But I just want to understand - this idea that you would look at some sort of US role, in the event that this peace agreement, sort of, came together, have you ruled out troops on the ground or not?

MR. FOLEY: I can only repeat what I just said, and it's been our stated position since the October agreement. It's a hypothetical question at this point. Ambassador Hill and Ambassador Petrisch have been undertaking some very serious efforts, to try to bridge the gaps between the parties; to try to get the Kosovar Albanians to agree to a unified team, a negotiating team on a unified platform; to try to get the Serbs to negotiate seriously, to be willing to grant serious autonomy, and for the Kosovar Albanians to accept the principle of a serious, real, credible self-governing autonomy as part of an interim settlement to last three years.

All of our efforts have been focusing on achieving that kind of a diplomatic breakthrough. You're talking about the hypothetical situation involving an agreement, involving an assumption that some kind of international presence would be needed to help implement such an agreement. We have not moved from the position that we announced in October; which is that if we did get such a breakthrough and, as you know, that is our hope: to achieve such a breakthrough. We're pursuing that hope. Ambassador Hill is in Pristina today and the Contact Group on Friday spoke about the need to have early negotiations on a political settlement. Although that is our hope, we are faced also with the more immediate challenge of across-the-board Serb non-compliance, and the possibility that the international community - NATO, in particular - may have to use force to achieve compliance.

So your question about the happy prospect of achieving, in the immediate term, Serb compliance, of achieving also in the immediate or near term, a political agreement on an interim settlement, that would be wholly welcome news to, I think, people in this city and, of course, throughout the world. If we had such an agreement, and it were deemed necessary to have an international presence to help implement the agreement, we would examine that, and we would consult with our allies, and we would consult with Congress. But that is very much putting the cart before the horse at this moment.

QUESTION: Is it the American position, then, that an agreement is a necessary precondition to the insertion of Western ground troops into Kosovo?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't, from this podium, want to speak for other nations. Certainly we have ruled out the idea of sending US ground forces into Kosovo, in the absence of a negotiated settlement agreed to by both sides - interim settlement.

QUESTION: Is there a Contact Group ministerial in London on Friday?

MR. FOLEY: I saw that in a wire report coming in here, that someone has announced that one is likely. Certainly one has not been finalized, to my knowledge; and I spoke with Secretary Albright's party this morning. I wouldn't rule it out, and certainly, as Carol alluded to, diplomatic efforts are underway. The Contact Group on Friday noted that Foreign Secretary Cook would consult with his colleagues in order to arrange an early ministerial meeting. So I wouldn't be surprised if one does take place. But one has not, to my knowledge, been finalized at this point.

QUESTION: Speaking of US ground forces, you said that NATO may have to use force in this certain condition. If force is used, one might expect that the KVM verifiers would be taken out either, by the extraction force or by additional troops. Would the US send troops in order to help evacuate KVM monitors?

MR. FOLEY: First of all, I can't necessarily embrace your premise. The issue of KVM's security is all-important, and the Serb authorities guaranteed the KVM's security at the time of the agreements reached in October. The decision involving KVM status, and whether it would be removed under circumstances of danger, would have to be decided by the OSCE.

But as far as their exit from Kosovo, if that were to become necessary, this has already been decided by NATO, which established an extraction force, EXFOR, located in Macedonia. It is a largely French force, I believe, and to my knowledge there's no scenario under which US ground forces would participate in the extraction. There may be US liaison, or NATO-US liaison, at the EXFOR headquarters in Macedonia, but not the scenario you're describing.

QUESTION: So would the US be willing to participate in such a --

MR. FOLEY: Well, as a member of NATO, we would certainly assist in any such operation in an appropriate way. But in response to your specific question, though, I gave you my answer.

QUESTION: Regarding Ambassador Hill's meeting today with the Albanians, can you give us any sense Was there progress achieved?

MR. FOLEY: I have no read-out of that meeting, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: None?

MR. FOLEY: No, I've not spoken to Ambassador Hill,or to others in the Department who may have spoken to him. I just don't know if those meetings are finished.

QUESTION: Do you know if there are more scheduled for the rest of the week?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we are hoping - obviously, this is a critical stage in the development of the Kosovo situation. I won't repeat everything I just said, ad nauseum, about the challenges we're facing with Serb non-compliance. But this is also a critical moment for moving the negotiating track forward as well. This is a very high priority of the US Government, and of the Contact Group, as indicated in their statement on Friday.

QUESTION: Can you tell us exactly with whom he's meeting, and what he's trying to achieve beyond what you've already told us?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I can just tell you I don't know who his counterparts are on the Kosovo Albanian side, but what he's doing is urging them to accept the principles that were endorsed by the Contact Group in London last Friday. Obviously, the general principle of the proposal endorsed by the Contact Group is well-known. I mentioned it a few minutes ago. It involves credible, real, substantial self-government - autonomy, if you will - for the people of Kosovo, during an interim, three-year period.

QUESTION: Mr. Foley, you stated a couple of times today Macedonia, Macedonia, Macedonia. My question is, Macedonia or FYROM, for the record?

MR. FOLEY: The official name, as far as the United States Government is concerned, is the FYROM, as you indicated, yes.

QUESTION: And one more question. Senator McConnell proposes fully the independence of Kosovo and military assistance to KLA for a solution. Any comment on that? It was in an article in The Washington Post the other day.

MR. FOLEY: I didn't understand the question.

QUESTION: The question is that Senator McConnell proposes the full independence of Kosovo and full military assistance from the USA to KLA as a solution. Any comment?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we believe that the best way forward, of achieving a peaceful solution to the problem in Kosovo, is by reaching, through negotiations, agreement on substantial autonomy for the people of Kosovo for an interim period.

QUESTION: Jim, on Venezuela, the president-elect is coming to town tomorrow. He's a man who was characterized in this room less then a year ago as a golpista who didn't deserve a visa. Now he's coming, and it looks like the red carpet is being rolled out. Can you comment on that? He's going to meet with the President; he's going to meet with Treasury; he's going to meet with Richardson; he's going to meet I don't know who all.

MR. FOLEY: I think you've just taken all of my answers from me; I'm not sure I need to answer any more.

(Laughter.)

The other underlying question that you raise about the attitude of the United States Government towards President-elect Chavez has been addressed often from this podium at the time of his election. I would refer you back to those transcripts of Mr. Rubin's briefings. We welcomed his election. It was a democratic election; he was obviously the overwhelming choice of the people of Venezuela. We look forward to working with him, and to welcoming him in Washington this week.

QUESTION: Is there going to be a disposition to help President Chavez, when he takes over, with a serious financial situation in which Venezuela is found? And also would there be disposition to use him, or to ask him, to serve as an interlocutor with Mr. Castro, and with the Colombian guerrillas?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we're not looking for interlocutors with Mr. Castro. As to your first question, we have heard very positive signals out of President-elect Chavez, regarding the direction in which he wants to take the Venezuelan economy. Clearly, he campaigned on a political platform that was aimed at convincing the vast majority of Venezuelans that they can have a better economic future.

At the same time, though, he's indicated that he wants to maintain very close economic ties to the United States, to keep his country open to foreign investment, and to overall pursuing sound economic policies. We look forward to working with him on that basis.

QUESTION: Any response to the reported shooting of five ethnic Albanian civilians, including two children?

MR. FOLEY: Well, this morning a KVM patrol found a car containing five bodies. The apparent ambush took place near Rakovina, which is between Djakovica and Klina. As of an hour ago, before I came out here, we did not have word yet on the identity or the ethnicity of the victims. The KVM is looking into that.

So I can't confirm that for you. Obviously, we abhor any such acts, any such violence perpetrated on civilians in Kosovo, be they ethnic Serbs or ethnic Albanians. It's equally abominable and unacceptable.

QUESTION: On South Africa: I just wondered how closely the United States is following the political violence in the township of Richmond in -- (inaudible) - Natal.

MR. FOLEY: Well, we've seen the press reports on violence in Richmond over the weekend. The United States Government certainly hopes that calm will be speedily restored. We understand that President Mandela has decided not to visit Uganda this week, in order to attend to the situation. We understand the South African Government has deployed police and security forces to the area, to prevent further violence. This is an internal matter. I really have no further comment, except to hope that this is something that can be dealt with without further violence.

QUESTION: One last question. When President Clinton was in Caracas, he agreed with the President of Venezuela that they would sign the Investment Guarantee Treaty. Nothing's happened on that. Do you have any comment?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, I can comment that the state of your knowledge of US-Venezuelan relations is pretty impressive.

(Laughter.)

President-elect Chavez is here this week. I'm sure that we'll be in a position - especially out of the White House, but perhaps here as well - to comment further about some of the details you're raising, including that particular question.

QUESTION: Do you happen to have information on his schedule, and what message you expect to convey to him while he's here?

MR. FOLEY: President-elect Chavez will meet with senior officials from several US Government agencies, including the State Department. Since he will be in Washington for only one day on this visit, we have attempted to have him meet with as many groups as time permits, as was indicated from the floor. He has meetings with Deputy Secretary Talbott; Energy Secretary Richardson; Treasury Secretary Rubin; and officials from the international financial institutions.

I can only repeat what I said a minute ago, George, which is that we look forward to working with him, as he pursues sound economic policies and political reform within the framework of the Venezuelan constitution.

QUESTION: South Asia - can you say something specific on what, in concrete terms, is Mr. Talbott looking for, in terms of the four-point agenda that he has for his visit on February 2? I mean, is he looking for specific advancements, agreements on CBMs or non-proliferation, or is it just simply talks?

MR. FOLEY: Well, he's looking for progress. This, I believe, is the eighth such meeting, or round, of talks that he's held with both India and Pakistan. As you know, the P-5 agreed on a series of benchmarks that involve progress on non-proliferation. He's going to be pursuing progress on all of those fronts.

QUESTION: Is he going to mark the bench, or is it just going to be talks about the benchmarks, as in the last four or five rounds?

MR. FOLEY: As I said, he hopes to achieve progress on those issues; but I certainly can't prejudge the outcome of the talks before they occur.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on reports that the relatives of the Rwandan genocide victims are accusing and launching an investigation against Kofi Annan and the UN, saying that they didn't do enough to prevent the massacres?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of that story.

QUESTION: Over the weekend there was a story that said that the US had put these two Khmer Rouge leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, on its wanted list for war criminals. Is this new; because my understanding - maybe my understanding is wrong - but that the entire Khmer Rouge leadership was put on that list around two years ago when the whole Pol Pot thing became --

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to check with the people working on the issue, to know whether those names are on any such list. Certainly we've called for the bringing to justice of the senior Khmer Rouge leadership responsible for the genocide which occurred there. But as to whether names have been named, and those in particular, I'd have to check the record.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - any investigation to cover the '75 - '79 period. Hun Sen wants it to cover 1970 to 1995, I believe. Do you have any guidance on that subject?

MR. FOLEY: No, I don't, but I can tell you that our view is that what any international body needs to look at are crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide, which occurred in the period following the arrival in power of the Khmer Rouge.

QUESTION: Does the US have any view or opinion about the change in successor to the Jordanian monarch?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we believe, certainly, this is an internal matter for Jordan to decide. My information is that there has not been any kind of a formal announcement out of Oman, to this point. So I cannot make any kind of a formal reaction to what you're referring to.

What I can say, though, is that certainly His Majesty King Hussein has proven himself to be a wise and courageous leader. He is deeply respected in Jordan, and the region, and around the world. Again, decisions concerning the line of succession are internal matters. These issues are King Hussein's responsibility.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about what is the US position, or what do you feel about Mordechai being dismissed and also if there is any truth behind him, or the US - I mean Israel, pulling troops out of Lebanon?

MR. FOLEY: On the latter subject, I've not heard anything; and I'd have to take the question to see if we know anything about troop pull-outs. I'm not aware of the issue.

On the first one, it's the same answer to the previous question on Jordan; which is: That's an internal matter this time for Israel to decide. We have no position or comment.

QUESTION: Does the Department have any official reaction to the statements in the last two days by Pope John Paul II, regarding fighting corruption, fighting drugs and quite a number of other social ills in the Americas?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I have not seen particular quotes or comments you're talking about. I haven't read up yet or run into the results of the Pope's visit to Mexico. Of course, he'll be coming here this week. I believe the President will be welcoming him in St. Louis, and we certainly look forward to his visit.

On the matter of fighting drugs, I think the United States' record is certainly second to none in the world, in terms of the amount of resources and effort we place on fighting the scourge of international narcotics trafficking. We believe also efforts to promote governmental transparency, the rule of law, and to fight against corruption, which is a growing problem around the world over the last decade - again, this is one of the highest priorities of the US Government. I believe - correct me if I'm wrong - I believe the Vice President will be hosting a conference here in the State Department later this month, I believe, on that very subject.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: Absolutely. I would assume; I haven't read them yet.

(The briefing concluded at 2:10 P.M.)

[end of document]

Back to the Press Briefing Calendar.
Return to the Home Page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.